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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Heavy Metals in the Environment

Quantifying Constraints Imposed by Calcium and Iron on Bacterial Reduction of Uranium(VI)


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 2, p. 363-372
    Received: Feb 11, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): fendorf@stanford.edu
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  1. Brandy D. Stewart,
  2. Jim Neiss and
  3. Scott Fendorf *
  1. Dep. of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA 94305


Uranium is a redox active contaminant of concern to both human health and ecological preservation. In anaerobic soils and sediments, the more mobile, oxidized form of uranium (UO2 2+ and associated species) may be reduced by dissimilatory metal-reducing bacteria. Despite rapid reduction in controlled, experimental systems, various factors within soils or sediments may limit biological reduction of U(VI), inclusive of competing electron acceptors and alterations in uranyl speciation. Here we elucidate the impact of U(VI) speciation on the extent and rate of reduction, and we examine the impact of Fe(III) (hydr)oxides (ferrihydrite, goethite, and hematite) varying in free energies of formation. Observed pseudo first-order rate coefficients for U(VI) reduction vary from 12 ± 0.60 × 10−3 h−1 (0 mM Ca in the presence of goethite) to 2.0 ± 0.10 × 10−3 h−1 (0.8 mM Ca in the presence of hematite). Nevertheless, dissolved Ca (at concentrations from 0.2 to 0.8 mM) decreases the extent of U(VI) reduction by ∼25% after 528 h relative to rates without Ca present. Imparting an important criterion on uranium reduction, goethite and hematite decrease the dissolved concentration of calcium through adsorption and thus tend to diminish the effect of calcium on uranium reduction. Ferrihydrite, in contrast, acts as a competitive electron acceptor and thus, like Ca, decreases uranium reduction. However, while ferrihydrite decreases U(VI) in solutions without Ca, with increasing Ca concentrations U(VI) reduction is enhanced in the presence of ferrihydrite (relative to its absence)—U(VI) reduction, in fact, becomes almost independent of Ca concentration. The quantitative framework described herein helps to predict the fate and transport of uranium within anaerobic environments.

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